The recorded history of European presence in Arkansas dates to the Spanish expedition of Hernando de Soto, who crossed the Mississippi River and entered what is now Arkansas in 1541. Reports by the commanders at Arkansas Post, one of the earliest settlements in Arkansas, indicate that there was never a substantial agricultural class in the region, even in what might be loosely defined as the more populous areas. Morris S. Arnold, in his social and cultural history of the state, entitled Colonial Arkansas, 1686-1804, states: "It is safe to conclude that there were never more than eight or ten real farmers at any one time at the Post in the colonial period.... Although the state of the agricultural art, and the number of people engaged in it, certainly increased during the last decade of the eighteenth century, John Treat, writing from the Post in 1805, notes even at that late date that ‘agriculture here is yet in its infancy.…’"
In 1803 Arkansas became a part of the territory of the United States as the "District of Arkansas" within the territory of Louisiana. In 1812 the District became part of the Missouri Territory, where it remained until 1819 when Arkansas became a separate Territory. Military roads were among the important projects undertaken by the territorial government. The road from Memphis to Little Rock opened in 1828. By 1836, the year that Arkansas became a state, military roads crossed from north to south and east to west. Coupled with waterways that included the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers, these thoroughfares enabled early settlers -- primarily from Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia -- to pour into Arkansas in search of new homes.
Governor Archibald Yell, well aware of the importance of agricultural development, requested the state legislature to appropriate funds for scientific agricultural research in 1842. However, it was not until 1871 that a formal educational institution was established to actively promote agricultural research. In that year Arkansas Industrial University, which became the University of Arkansas in 1899, was created under the auspices of the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862. Agricultural science was among the courses first offered by the University. However, the course was eventually abandoned because the campus at Fayetteville, in the far northwest corner of the state, was too removed from the eastern and southern parts of the state where cotton, the principal cash crop, was cultivated.
The geographic area of Arkansas is roughly rectangular in form -- 250 miles from north to south and 225 miles from east to west. With a total surface area of 53,335 square miles, it is the smallest state west of the Mississippi, but is roughly the size of Pennsylvania and New Jersey combined. A line drawn from the northeast corner to the southwest corner diagonally across Arkansas would divide the state into nearly equal parts. Roughly, the half of the state to the north and west is highlands, including the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges. Early farmers in the highlands eked out a living on eroded hill tracts, raising corn, hogs, and cattle, while supplementing their incomes by working in coal mines or sawmills. The half of the state to the south and east consists of river bottoms and low-lying plains. It includes a broad belt of bottom lands, from 50 to 100 miles wide, along the Mississippi River from the Missouri state line to Louisiana. This land, where cotton was king, contains some of the richest soil in the country. Agricultural society publications, such as proceedings, newspapers, constitutions, and by-laws, demonstrate that interest in agriculture became intense during the latter half of the nineteenth century, due primarily to the economy and falling cotton prices. Farm protest movements such as the Farmers Alliance and the Arkansas Agricultural Wheel, founded in Des Arc, Arkansas, looked to political remedies for economic woes. By 1884 there was a Grand State Wheel with nearly five thousand members in 114 subordinate Wheels. The Arkansas Grange was much larger, with over twenty thousand members in its peak year of 1875. The Proceedings of the Quarterly Session of the Independence County Union, Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America, of Independence County, Arkansas; the Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the Arkansas State Farmers Union; and Constitution of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry and By-laws of the National Grange and of the Arkansas State Grange are just a few examples of the rich literature that documents agricultural society interests and activities.
The state legislature responded by enacting the Barker Act in 1887 which created the position of superintendent of agriculture at the University. Albert E. Menke, a young chemistry professor, became the first superintendent. Among his early accomplishments was the creation of a University agricultural farm. Legislation at the national level, namely the Hatch Act of 1887, also had an impact. The Arkansas legislature officially accepted the $15,000 provided by the Hatch Act, and the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station was created, with Mr. Menke as its first superintendent. The first Bulletin, by F.M. Bordeaux, was entitled Experiments on Cotton and Corn in Drew County. Subsequent issues of the Bulletin dealt with a multitude of problems that beset Arkansas farmers, including hog cholera, fertilizers, and erosion. The Station also produced studies on cotton, corn, sorghum, and tree diseases. Materials in need of preservation include extant circulars, special reports, and annual reports that document the programs and activities of the Experiment Station.
The establishment of the Agricultural Extension Service in 1914 by the Smith-Lever Act, and the Arkansas State Plant Board in 1917 by the state legislature, were major steps in the promotion of scientific agriculture. The Arkansas Gazette, the state's leading newspaper, had long complained about Experiment Station bulletins being too difficult for the large number of illiterate farmers. The newspaper suggested that demonstration projects could provide tangible results from research that would benefit farmers. Thus, the Extension Service became a conduit for the application of basic work that was done at the University. One of its early successes was in the eradication of ticks in western and northwestern Arkansas, supported in part by an allocation of $50,000 from the state legislature.
In 1808 Fortescue Cuming suggested in a letter that a small lake near present-day Helena, Arkansas, would make "a fine situation for rice grounds." It took nearly 100 years, however, for a successful crop of rice to be grown for commercial purposes. In 1904 William H. Fuller grew a stand near Carlisle, Arkansas. Five years later the rice harvest passed the 1,000,000-bushel mark. Until 1940 Arkansas was one of the four leading states in the production of rice, growing about twenty percent of the country's crop, but today the state is the number one producer of rice. Arkansas Rice: Its Growth and Possibilities along the Cotton Belt Route (1908); Rice, the White Cereal of Arkansas (1910); and The History of Rice Development in Arkansas, published in Carlisle, Arkansas, in 1920, provide us with valuable insight to the beginnings of the rice industry in Arkansas.
By the end of World War I, the agricultural economy of Arkansas, like much of the South, was devastated. Records of the time show that many state legislators proposed sweeping changes to address the needs of farmers, going so far as to suggest that the University be relocated to Little Rock. How such a move would invigorate the economy was never fully outlined, but it reflected the desperate conditions of the time. However, in 1918 in a printed report entitled Arkansas, Farming Conditions and Farm Loan Needs, the Banking Committee of the Little Rock Board of Commerce expressed optimism when it stated that: "We have shown here that the spirit of progress has awakened in our state and that our farmers are taking advantage of the opportunities of learning better farm methods... We have pointed out our excellent system of co-operation of County Farm Demonstration Agents in place in 64 counties. These people work under the supervision of the United States and of the state and are teaching better farming methods and the diversification of crops and also developing the livestock industry." The report proved to be prophetic; by the mid-1920s the state's agricultural base showed improvement, largely due to a favorable turn in the national economy.
The economic upswing was short-lived. The flood of 1927 had a devastating effect on thousands of people along the Mississippi River. In 1930, the Arkansas banking system collapsed, as the American Exchange and Trust, headquartered in Little Rock with 72 branches throughout the state, closed its doors. Farmers were particularly hard hit, and by the end of 1930, sixty-three percent of all Arkansas farmers fell into tenancy. Farmers growing rice in Arkansas and Prairie counties, however, were fortunate, as their products could be sold. For those who planted cotton, it was an entirely different matter. The drought of 1930-1931, coupled with the drop in price of cotton, was crippling.
In July of 1934, in a run-down school house near Tyronza, Arkansas, H.L. Mitchell and Henry Clay East were among those who established the Southern Tenants Farmers' Union (STFU). The original membership consisted of eleven white and seven black members. Ironically, some of the founders reportedly were former members of the Ku Klux Klan, and one of the blacks was a survivor of the 1919 riot at Elaine, Arkansas. By the end of 1935 the STFU had a heavy concentration of members in northeast Arkansas and claimed approximately 30,000 members in neighboring states.
The deplorable conditions of farmers and sharecroppers drew national attention. Correspondents from afar traversed the Delta country and reported on what they saw. English writer Naomi Mitchinson stated: "I have traveled over most of Europe and part of Africa but I have never seen such terrible sights as I saw yesterday among the sharecroppers of Arkansas." Eleanor Roosevelt, in an April 4, 1936, letter to Senate majority leader Joe T. Robinson of Arkansas, stated: "Three sharecroppers, two of them from Arkansas, came to see me in New York the other day and I was deeply troubled by the stories they tell... I am very anxious about it and know you must feel the same way. I wonder if it would not be possible to send some one down to try to get a better understanding between the people than there seems to be at present."
The Dyess Colony was an attempt to reestablish impoverished farmers under circumstances giving them a reasonable chance for success. Named for W.R. Dyess, first administrator of the Works Progress Administration in Arkansas, the colony was founded in 1934 in Mississippi County as an experiment that was assisted by the Federal government. Members of the colony, selected from state relief rolls, were housed in dwellings centered around a community hospital, bank, feed mill, cotton gin, canning building, library, and other service facilities. Farms were worked on an individual basis, but community tasks were often performed by members on a cooperative basis. The Colony received notice in the national press because of its large scale and the support of the Federal government. Shortly before 1940 the Farm Security Administration assumed control of the Dyess Colony. Some of the buildings still exist at Dyess, Arkansas. Students of the period credit the STFU for touching off a reaction that pushed the New Deal toward far bolder action on the farm front than otherwise might have been the case. In Arkansas, Governor J. Marion Futrell appointed a group of leading citizens to the Arkansas Tenancy Commission in 1936, charging them to review the plight of the sharecroppers. Most of their recommendations were incorporated in the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act of 1937. But the STFU wanted sweeping changes. In the June 1937 issue of The Sharecropper's Voice, the official organ of the STFU, the editor called for Arkansas Governor Carl E. Bailey to repeal the poll tax law: "There can be no democracy in Arkansas so long as thousands of sharecroppers -- probably a majority of the citizens of the state -- are denied the vote because they are too poor to pay the poll tax." As reflected in literature such as Land Tenure in Arkansas, a 1945 report issued by the Department of Rural Economics and Sociology of the University of Arkansas, the great majority of Arkansans were still on farms and dependent on them for a living at the beginning of World War II. H. Kester's Revolt Among the Sharecroppers (1936) provides views of the plight of sharecroppers from a broader perspective than just one area.
While politicians had an impact on the life of the farm community, those outside the political arena caused revolutionary changes that would have a tremendous impact on agriculture and rural life. There were engineers in Detroit who perfected the tractor to do more work than a mule; botanists, entomologists, and chemists who found new ways to eliminate the enemies of crops; those in the Agricultural Extension Service who spread the word across the state; soil conservationists who taught farmers how to terrace their land to prevent topsoil from running off; the rural electric cooperatives which brought cheap electricity; and John and Mack Rust, brothers near Pine Bluff who built an odd looking machine that could pick cotton. These developments combined to change the face of Arkansas forever.
The fruit industry in the state was a more vital industry to northwest Arkansas in the early twentieth century than its modern-day counterpart. Arkansas, the Orchard of the World (1904); Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the Arkansas Pecan Growers Association, 1927-1928; and Effect of Variations in Yield on Cost of Producing Grapes (1931) attest to the economic power that the fruit industry held in the early part of the twentieth century.
Iowa is agriculture. Since its first settlers crossed the Mississippi River in the 1830s, Iowa’s history has been shaped by the richness of some of the best soil in the world. Bordered by two major river systems, Iowa’s gently rolling countryside was originally covered by thousands of acres of prairie grass, some of it so high that to see over it required riders to stand on top of their horses. Nearly 35 inches of rain falls each year and the average annual temperature hovers around 50 degrees, providing Iowa with a growing season sufficient to raise abundant crops.
Native Americans whom the French fur traders first encountered in the 1700s were the Ioway, whose name means "beautiful land" or "this is the place." Others, including the Sac, Fox, Winnebago, Pottawattamie, Otoe, and Illini tribes, came into Iowa after losing their homelands to the westward advancement of white settlers. These varied groups blended the woodlands culture of the northeast with the existing plains and prairie civilization to produce a semi-nomadic lifestyle that relied primarily on hunting, fishing, and gathering of fruits. In small garden plots the Native American peoples also grew maize, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and other vegetables. These New World crops were an important addition to the European food base and served as the foundation for future agricultural developments.
By 1833, most of the Native Americans had been displaced and the territory was opened to new settlement. The nearly treeless prairie offered little hindrance to the wave of pioneers that moved inexorably across what would soon become the 29th state in December 1846. Like their counterparts in other Midwestern states, Iowa’s nineteenth-century settlers were a mixture of pioneers and foreign-born people. After the Civil War, many families moved westward from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, stopping in Iowa. Some settled permanently while others stayed only a short while. By 1890, nearly 20% were foreign-born, almost entirely from northern and western Europe, with the majority being of German ancestry. In the early part of the twentieth century, the burgeoning coal-mine industry attracted immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.
Yet it has been the land that has shaped Iowa, its people, and its history. The men and women who toiled long days in the sun, or shivered in winter’s icy blasts, developed a soberness, hardiness, and strong work ethic that buttressed them from the vagaries of the marketplace. They took their work seriously, their religion quietly, and their politics with a good dose of moderation. Perhaps historian Dorothy Schwieder has best summarized the essential characteristics of Iowans, calling them people of the Middle Land, not only geographically but socially and politically as well. From the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth, most Iowans seldom strayed from within the fold of the Republican party. Even when the Populist Party chose a native son, James B. Weaver, as its presidential standard-bearer in the 1890s, Iowa farmers tended to look the other way and stayed with the tried and true Republican Party.
It was one thing to raise a crop; it was another to get it sold. In the early years, most Iowans were unable to grow more than they needed to support their homesteads. But as agricultural methods improved and machinery began to assert its impact on productivity, the issue of transportation became significant for Iowa farmers. They needed to acquire ways of getting their surplus to market to generate the capital necessary for future success on the land. Fortunately, the two major rivers which serve as Iowa’s east and west boundaries functioned as efficient and regular conduits for agricultural products. Despite the importance of water transport, it was the advent of the railroad that especially spurred sustained growth of Iowa’s rural economy. By 1870, four major lines crisscrossed the state, linking the countryside with the rivers while establishing nodes of embryonic towns and villages. These small communities often consisted of a grain elevator, a few stores, a church or two, some private dwellings, and, of course, a public school; yet they were an essential ingredient in the integration of rural and urban life during the nineteenth century. It was not until 1918 that the first concrete highway was poured. For several decades, farm traffic moved from field to market along roads made either of dirt or, in some places, of wooden planks.
In the beginning Iowa farmers grew mainly wheat, with some barley, rye, oats, and corn on the side. Additionally, they maintained a few head of cattle, some hogs, and sheep, especially in the pre-Civil War period. By the 1870s, Iowa farmers began to raise corn and hogs, which provided the diversified basis for agricultural production that is in effect today. In 1862, Congress passed the Morrill Act which gave federal support to the creation of land-grant agricultural and mechanical arts colleges. Established by the Iowa General Assembly in 1858, the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm (IAC) was designated the nation’s first land-grant college when Iowa became the first state to accept the terms of the Morrill Act in 1864. The school was the first land-grant institution to be co-educational from the beginning, opening its doors in the fall of 1868 and establishing firm connections with its rural citizenry. This relationship was enhanced by the creation of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Ames as a result of the 1887 Hatch Act. In 1879, the college established its Department of Veterinary Medicine. In 1906, another important service to Iowa’s rural constituency commenced with the founding of a Department of Extension, whose mission was to inform farmers in every corner of the state about new agricultural developments.
From the start the college enjoyed dynamic leadership in its agricultural programs with such individuals as James "Tama Jim" Wilson, who later became the longest-serving U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, with appointments in the McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft administrations. This leadership attracted able students, such as Iowa State’s first African-American alumnus, George Washington Carver, who went on to a distinguished career at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
To the academic triad of college, experiment station, and extension should be added the prominent role of agricultural publications such as Wallace’s Farmer, edited by the redoubtable "Uncle" Henry Wallace, whose son and grandson would later succeed James Wilson as secretaries of agriculture in the twentieth century. Beginning in 1893, Wallace’s Farmer promoted scientific agriculture coupled with an emphasis on practical application and a concern for the entire rural community. The Iowa Homestead, launched in 1856 and absorbed by the Wallaces into their publication in 1929, also served as an effective vehicle for information about Iowa agriculture.
The combination of education, outreach, and wide dissemination of current agricultural research instilled a desire in Iowa’s farmers constantly to improve their farming methods. Agricultural press titles such as Iowa Agriculturist (1903 to date); Iowa Homestead (1856-1929); Iowa Farmer (1925-28); Western Stock Journal and Farmer by Seaman Knapp, who later became IAC president (1893-1899); and Successful Farming, begun in 1902 by Edward T. Meredith of Des Moines, provided information regarding the latest scientific farming methods as well as commentary of the day on the economic, political, and social conditions of the Iowa farmer.
Since the state entered the Union in 1846, Iowa has had a rich tradition of agricultural publishing. The National Agricultural Library holds approximately 2,000 Iowa titles. Many more exist in Iowa’s public and private colleges, public libraries, and historical societies. The Iowa State University Cooperative Extension Service and Experiment Station have published more than 1000 titles. The State of Iowa Departments of Agriculture, Public Instruction (Education), and Natural Resources; and the Highway Commission (Transportation) have all produced publications relating to Iowa agriculture and rural life. These include the Annual Iowa Yearbook of Agriculture; Transactions, Proceedings and Reports of the Iowa State Horticultural Society; and Report and Proceedings of the Iowa State Agricultural Society; among others.
In addition to university publications and the agricultural press, agricultural organizations and agribusiness have played a key role in disseminating agricultural information. Groups like the Iowa Farm Bureau, the Iowa Grange, the Iowa Agricultural Society (which was instrumental in founding Iowa State’s forerunner, the Iowa Agricultural College), the Iowa State and County Fairs Association, and the Iowa Beef Producers Association have published information aimed at improving farmers’ agricultural productivity and quality of life. Commercial agricultural interests provided this service as well. Dorr’s Iowa Seeds Catalog (1881-1886) is a premier example of a publication that documents the range of agricultural supplies that were available over one hundred years ago.
It is this published record that the Iowa State University Library seeks to preserve for future scholars interested in Iowa and U.S. agriculture and rural life. An extensive collection on the history of Iowa agriculture is held by the University Library at Iowa State University, including Iowa State Department of Agriculture publications such as its Bulletin (1907-1949) and its Annual Iowa Yearbook of Agriculture (1900-1951). Also included are prominent statewide periodicals like the Official Proceedings of the Iowa State Grange (1874-1977). Another group of important materials in need of preservation is State Extension publications, of which the University Library has over 100 individual cataloged series. The Library also contains extensive holdings of serials relating to research conducted in agricultural engineering, home economics, and animal and plant sciences. These titles all contain irreplaceable historical information about the story of agriculture in Iowa, and their identification and preservation is a challenge and a responsibility.
Kansas, the "Wheat State," encompasses great variations in climate, terrain, soil, and native plants and animals. Initially the land surface was covered with perennial warm-season grasses, ranging from the tall grasses near the Missouri River to mid grasses in the central portion, and short grasses in the west. Most of the tillable land in the state has a slope of less than 5%, which is ideal for agriculture. Extremes in weather conditions and unpredictable weather patterns throughout the year, droughts, and insect invasions were among the difficulties faced by the early settlers and are still faced today.
Kansas was a part of the lands included in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The creation of states and territories in the lands immediately to the west of the Mississippi River (Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and the Minnesota Territory) left no governance for the region lying further west. The remaining part of the Louisiana Purchase was identified as the "Unorganized Territory." Non-Native American settlement in Kansas assumed a different pattern from the common trans-Mississippi experience. Most frontier areas experienced the movement and settlement of persons at a gradual pace. Kansas, however, was settled by mass migrations that came sporadically. Settlement began in 1819 with the establishment of Cantonment Martin, the first military post in Kansas, on Cow Island (also known as Ilse au Voche by French trappers) near present day Atchison. The twin territories of Kansas and Nebraska were created out of the Unorganized Territory with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of May 30, 1844. This act repealed the provision of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and reopened the slavery question in the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, which was to be resolved by "popular sovereignty." Supporters for both sides sought to resolve the issue by assuring that their side would have the preponderance of votes. These migrations reached their peak in 1860. The strife and conflicts of this period resulted in the rest of the country labeling the area "bloody Kansas." Kansas was admitted as a free state on January 29, 1861, just weeks before the outbreak of the Civil War.
The next great migration occurred after the passage of the Homestead Act and the end of the Civil War. This migration peaked in 1872 and 1873, the years in which the first foreign-born immigrants arrived in Kansas. The first of these new settlers were the Swedes, followed by a Mennonite colony. The Mennonites were followed by three important British colonies; Victoria and Runnymeade (primarily landed gentry), and Wakefield (primarily farmers from England and Scotland). Although their effect on the livestock industry was great, few of the colonists at Victoria and Runnymeade remained in Kansas; the Wakefield colony did gain permanent status. From the end of the Civil War through the 1870s, thousands of ex-slaves came to Kansas; with the exception of the Nicodemus Colony from Kentucky, these people had little money and few clothes. From 1880 to 1900, hundreds of British and French and a few Bohemian families arrived in Kansas. In addition, there were Danes and Norwegians, Dutch and Canadians, Welsh and Irish.
Many settlers were optimistic that the area would become a favored agricultural region, but from 1862 to 1872, little effort was put into developing a vigorous agriculture. The population was small, urban centers were almost nonexistent, and markets were too far away and too hard to reach by horse and wagon on dirt tracks. Most farms operated at a subsistence level. Early settlements were in the east and northeast where water and wood for housing, fencing, and fuel were available and conditions were similar to the farmers’ previous experience. Moving further west, the difficulties were compounded by the general absence of stone and timber, the necessity of digging a well for water, and the difficulty of plowing the prairie sod.
As settlement spread in Kansas, agriculture itself was changing. Plowing the prairie sod and farming on the plains led to the demise of the iron plow and the advent of the steel plow. Farming on the plains produced other agricultural inventions: barbed wire, reapers, mowers, threshers, and windmills. These developments led to larger farms, increased farming costs, and a move away from subsistence farming.
After passage of the Morrill Act, Kansas State Agricultural College (KSAC) was a generator and distributor of technology that increased the productivity and profitability of family farms. The Hatch Act resulted in establishment of the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station at KSAC to do research, and to adapt and develop technology to meet the needs of the small independent farmer.
The founding of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture (1872) coincided with the spread of scientific agriculture and with other movements to improve conditions for citizens, including the rise of farmers’ organizations. Modeled on Britain’s Board of Agriculture, the young Kansas Board was both a part of and a catalyst for the formation of many emerging farm groups and for changes in agriculture and agricultural marketing. This Board took a successful leadership role in petitioning Congress for creation both of the U. S. Department of Agriculture with a cabinet-level secretary, and of agricultural experiment stations. The Board also made a number of contributions to Kansas agriculture. The quality of the Board’s Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture was recognized when the Sixth Biennial Report ... earned a medal and diploma at the Paris Exposition of 1889. Publications in The Report of the State Board of Agriculture, issued from 1916 through 1950, including Wheat in Kansas (1921) and Beef Cattle in Kansas (1935) and other volumes on grasses, weeds, and other subjects, are considered classics today. Eventually the Board’s responsibilities centered on three major areas: promoting Kansas agriculture; providing services to farmers and consumers through inspection and grading of products and improved marketing; and administration of regulatory laws assigned to the Board by the Legislature. The Board was unique among the states as an agricultural department administered by a Secretary who is appointed by a farmer-elected Board with the support of farm groups.
Wheat is primarily a cool-season crop, and does not do well under Kansas summer weather. With the coming of Turkey red, a hard winter wheat first sown in 1874 by the Mennonites, wheat production began to rise, although it was the early 1900s before trial and error in production and variety selection yielded results. Milling hard wheat properly with stone mills was difficult, so steel roller mills were developed in 1878. This and other inventions made hard wheats viable in the marketplace. Organized and active research on wheat began at the KSAC farm in 1874. The establishment of the experiment stations in 1887 was the beginning of well-coordinated research programs.
Native Americans had grown corn and beans to supplement their diet of fish and wild game long before permanent white settlers arrived in 1854, introducing many new crops to Kansas. Among the crops that made brief appearances in Kansas were tobacco, cotton, hemp, flax (for the oil), castor beans, timothy, rape, emmer ("speltz"), pearl millet, sunflowers, and safflower. The transition from subsistence to profit farming resulted in greater interest in selecting crops and methods best adapted for and capable of giving high returns. Corn, oats, barley, and rye played an important role through the 1940s; bromegrass and tall fescue gained popularity, and alfalfa and sorghum began to draw more interest. Among the major developments affecting crop production were improvement of crop varieties, the move from horse and mule farming to more efficient power farming, and the development and use of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides in the early 1940s. In addition to wheat, sorghum, corn, alfalfa and soybeans emerged as the major cultivated crops. Horticultural crops such as fruit trees, vineyard plants, vegetables, shrubs, flowers, turfgrass, and trees have benefited Kansas since early in its history.
The Civil War years increased the demand for beef from the East. After the war, Southern soldiers returned home and attempted to reach the Northern market with the large numbers of cattle developed in the southwest before and during the war. They started driving large herds north and east to reach Sedalia, Missouri, and the railroad. In 1867, J.F. McCoy found a better route to a railhead in Abilene, Kansas. By 1871, 600,000 head of cattle per year were shipped to Chicago from Abilene. As the railroads pushed westward, Abilene was succeeded by Newton, Wichita, Great Bend, and finally by Dodge City, the most famous of all cowtowns.
The Angus breed was introduced in 1873 by the English at Victoria, Kansas. In 1890, crossbreeding with three English cattle breeds (Shorthorn, Hereford, and Angus) upgraded the Longhorn range cattle. These three English breeds were used for about 55 years to develop the most efficient beef cattle industry the world has known. Cattle grazing in Kansas fits well into a crop rotation system as forage production and livestock grazing help to control soil and water resources. Kansas State Agricultural College contributed greatly to the improvement of the beef cattle industry by training leaders, conducting research, and extending the research to the industry.
Water in Kansas agriculture has always been a crucial factor. Precipitation from year to year and point to point is quite variable and unpredictable. For settlers with little understanding of the erratic nature of Kansas weather, and with farming techniques and crops that were not adapted to the area, the odds of being successful were greatly reduced. The resulting crop failures and other hardships caused 30,000 of the 100,000 early settlers in the eastern part of the state to return to the East. It also resulted in the nickname "Droughty Kansas." Irrigation farming began in Kansas as early as 1866, but only gained favor during the 1890s. The Board of Irrigation Survey and Experiment was created in 1895 by the Legislature to make a practical test of water supply for irrigation in the uplands of western Kansas. Other legislation was passed over the next 30 years to encourage irrigation. Laws to control water use increased as the population grew. English common law was initially adopted as it was best applied to surface water, but it did not meet the needs of groundwater allocation. In 1945, the Legislature adopted the appropriation doctrine, which spurred the development of water resources because it assured investors of the right to the available supply.
Farm mechanization has had the greatest impact on the rise of Kansas as the leader in wheat and grain sorghum production. One of the early combine pioneers in Kansas was Curtis C. Baldwin, who became associated with the Gleaner combine in Kansas City. Mowers, rakes, and hay presses for hay and forage were succeeded by pickup balers in 1940. In the 1880s, the ensilage cutter led to silos to preserve green feed. The field forage harvester eliminated much of the hand labor required to cut and ensile forage crops.
Flour milling in Kansas encompasses agricultural, technological, business, transportation and social history. By 1900, Kansas had some 357 mills of various capacities. Milling first operated in Kansas on a toll basis, but changed in the 1870s to the exchange system with the development of elevators. Beginning in 1906, KSAC initiated research in cereal chemistry and the milling qualities of wheat. This resulted in the establishment in 1910 of the unique Department of Milling Industry. The leadership of Dr. C.O. Swanson and that of later department heads aided in forming the close relationship between the department and the industry that exists today.
The grain elevator was often one of the first businesses established in western Kansas communities. It survived drought, grasshoppers, economic depressions and railroad abandonment. Kansas farmers first built their own elevators in the 1880s to protest unfair pricing and unfair railroad rules, and to respond to threats from major grain syndicates. The grain cooperatives which soon followed were as interested in reducing production costs through group purchases as they were in the marketing of the grain and other raw products. Problems and disagreements dealing with grading wheat, test weights, and warehousing were pursued by the Kansas Grain & Feed Dealers Association, established in 1896. The Association actively established uniform grades for all markets, a uniform plan of tolerance in protein analysis, and in dealing with unregulated buyers.
The desire of the Kansas farmer for education resulted in a rich publishing tradition by the State, from recruitment materials, e.g. Kansas, Auskunft uber seinen Ackerbau, Gartenbau und seine Viehzucht (1884) to the educational and outreach materials of the Agricultural Experiment Station’s Bulletin, Circular, and others, and the Cooperative Extension Service’s Leaflets, Extension Bulletin, and Extension Circular. These hundreds of titles directly affected Kansas agriculture. The State Board of Health, Board of Irrigation Survey and Experiment, Bureau of Immigration, Geological Survey, Kansas State Agricultural College, University of Kansas and other governmental bodies have all produced publications relating to Kansas agriculture and rural life.
Farm organizations started in Kansas in 1870 with the Grange, which was followed in 1887 by the Kansas Farmers’ Alliance. The farm organization movement became blatantly political in 1890 with the forming of the Kansas People’s Party. The Populist Party was replaced by organizations that placed emphasis on education of farmers at all levels. Farm organizations provided important support and points around which to rally in much the same way the unions supported laborers. Farmers continued to lobby and to shape state and national policy to protect and promote agricultural interests on the farm, in the schools, and in the Legislature. This history is preserved in such publications as the Proceedings of the Annual Session of the Patrons of Husbandry, Kansas State Grange, Kansas Farm Bureau News, and numerous others.
Kansas has always enjoyed a high literacy rate. Most towns supported at least one newspaper during the settlement period and into the early years of statehood. The editorial wars of the rival editors were a source of interest, conflict, and humor. Editors created stick men which allowed them to explore all sides of a question without personally alienating advertisers or subscribers. These early writings of Kansans reflect their opinions and beliefs and leave a living legacy. Margaret Hill McCarter, the first woman to address a national political convention, supported herself and her three children through her writing. Her first novel, The Price of the Prairie, was in print for twenty years. Another prolific Kansas writer, Dr. Charles M. Sheldon, was the author of In His Steps, which had more than thirty million copies printed by more than fifty different publishers. A picturesque figure in American letters, E. W. Howe, wrote his first book, The Story of a Country Town, by the light of a kerosene lamp in 1887. Kansas also produced William Allen White, editor of the Emporia Gazette; and Arthur Capper, owner of the third largest publishing house in the country at the time, editor of The Kansas Farmer, a governor of the state, and then a United States Senator.
Michigan is richly endowed with water, being nearly surrounded by the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, with a shoreline longer than that of any other state in the Union and thousands of inland lakes and streams. The very name, "Michigan," derived from two Algonquin words, michi (great) and gama (lake), is a fitting tribute to the profound impact that this resource has had on the economic and social development of the state.
The Great Lakes served as the route for early European exploration and settlement, separating Michigan's sprawling Upper Peninsula from its familiar mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula,. When French fur traders and missionaries arrived in the mid-17th century, they came upon Michigan's first farmers -- Algonquin women from the Chippewa, Ottawa, Menominee, and Potawatomi tribes -- dwelling within the borders of the Territory. Armed with basic tools for clearing the land, these early agriculturists grew crops in clearings where sunshine penetrated the dense forests that once covered the state. Beans, squash, pumpkins, and maize were planted in these "garden-beds," supplementing their main diet of fish and game.
It was the abundant game that drew the French into the region, resulting in the establishment of trading posts at strategic points along the lakeshores and riverbanks. The profitable fur trade was their main preoccupation, but the French made some effort at farming, cultivating crops for their own subsistence and/or the limited local market. Farms were allotted to French settlers under a feudal system and were laid out in narrow strips about a block wide, extending three miles back from the Detroit River. The narrow plots promoted neighborliness and provided water access for everyone. The land was not aggressively cleared for agricultural use, but the soil was rich and productive. The interest of the French in horticulture was great; apples, peaches, pears, and cherries were grown in considerable quantities, with the juices being made into brandy and cider for trade with the Native Americans. These French orchards marked the beginning of Michigan's great fruit industry.
With the overthrow of the French by the British in 1763, a few English farmers moved into Michigan; but, as title to the land had not yet been secured from the Native Americans by treaty, settlement was not encouraged. The farming and trading community on the Detroit River stood fairly unchanged for fifty years. The Territory remained isolated from other settled portions of the country, cut off by a vast stretch of forested land. After the War of 1812 the United States opened up lands in the Northwest Territory as compensation for soldiers; but unfavorable early government surveys and geological reports prompted Congress to divert settlers from Michigan and to offer lands in neighboring states instead. Today's "Water Wonderland" was regarded as an impenetrable swampland, with scarcely one acre out of one hundred deemed fit for cultivation, uninhabitable for white men, albeit a fit home for Native Americans, wild beasts, bullfrogs, muskrats, and malaria. A well-known poem of the day warned would-be immigrants not to go to Michigan, "that land of ills; the word means ague, fever and chills." It took a generation for Michigan to overcome its bad reputation.
Fortunately, Lewis Cass, the first governor of the Territory, paved the way for further settlement by negotiating treaties with the Native Americans, surveying and platting the land, lobbying Congress to appropriate money to build a road through northern Ohio, and publicizing the true character of the land. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 gave further impetus to settlement by placing Michigan in the direct line of travel. The years 1836-1837 saw more government land sold in Michigan than in any other state. From New England and New York the pioneers came by the thousands, taking up lands best suited to farming in areas with an abundant water supply and transportation access to markets. They transformed the wilderness with their homesteads and carried Michigan into statehood in 1837.
The immigration excitement soon extended to Europe. In 1848 a State publication, Der Auswanderer Wegweiser (The Emigrant's Guide to the State of Michigan), was distributed in Germany with the express purpose of convincing German emigrants to purchase land in Michigan. Extolling the virtues of lake and river transportation and the cheap price of land ($1.25 an acre), it succeeded in attracting a steady stream of industrious German settlers. In subsequent years other groups came, drawn first by the Homestead Act of 1862, which offered free of cost 160 acres of government land to those who would live on it for five years; and later by the booming lumber, mining and automobile industries. Irish, Dutch, Finns, Swedes, Poles, Italians, Canadians, Russians and a host of others established ethnic communities throughout the state, making Michigan one of the most culturally diverse states in the nation.
Many of these groups took to agriculture, introducing new crops and new methods of cultivation. As they spread across the state, the settlers soon discovered that Michigan's topography, soils, and climate varied greatly from place to place. This variation results from the repeated glaciation of the region, the extension of the state across six degrees of latitude, and the influence of the surrounding lakes, which moderate winter and summer temperatures. And, as farms were not laid out according to soil type but rather in a grid pattern still visible in many rural areas today, a single farm might embrace several soil types. The great variation in soils and climate permitted the cultivation of a wide variety of agricultural products, and the pioneer farmer's relative isolation and the resulting need for self-sufficiency further encouraged this diversification. Diversification remains the hallmark of Michigan agriculture even today -- only the state of California lays claim to a longer list of products.
Farmers learned to apply scientific principles and practices to crop selection and animal husbandry. Very early on, the territorial government had recognized the positive role that progressive agriculture could play in clearing the land of forest and stumps and draining swamps; and in utilizing soils, seeds, and climatic factors to best advantage. During the 1840s the national interest in agricultural education and farm organizations found its expression in Michigan through the creation of the Michigan Farmer, the oldest farm press in the United States. Dedicated to introducing improvements in the practice and science of agriculture, improving soil cultivation, and elevating the profession of farming, the Michigan Farmer (along with the Michigan State Agricultural Society) was highly instrumental in advancing Michigan agriculture. It was an early advocate for the establishment of the Michigan Agricultural College (now called Michigan State University) in 1855 -- the first state agricultural college in the nation.
As the prototypical land-grant college, the Michigan Agricultural College considerably influenced the course of agricultural education nationwide, by serving as a model institution and by furnishing faculty and administrators from among the ranks of its graduates. Within the state, the College's prominent researchers advanced scientific agriculture by pioneering improvements in livestock breeding, soil quality, crop production, farm machinery, and plant disease and pest control. Their extension efforts, which began in 1875 with a series of winter farmers' institutes, brought valuable information directly to the farmer, gradually eroding the longstanding distrust of "book farming." By 1885 bulletins describing agricultural experiments were being distributed, and the College's extensive program of publication had begun. Meanwhile, the State Board of Agriculture, established by the legislature in 1861, was also collecting and disseminating farm information as well as encouraging the formation of agricultural societies. Associations for sugar cane growers (1862), horticulturalists (1870), and livestock breeders and feeders (1890), among others, gave early expression to the trend toward specialization; and, together with the Grange (1872), promoted agricultural interests and economic benefits. Their activities on behalf of agriculture are well documented in publications such as The Grange Visitor and the Annual Report of the Michigan State Horticultural Society.
With the coming of science to the farm, a new era for Michigan farming began. Subsistence farming gave way to increased commercial production as more and more land was brought under cultivation, and increased productivity made larger surpluses possible. The advancing agricultural frontier had encouraged the extension of the railway system; and the ensuing improvements in transportation widened the regional market for agricultural products. At the same time, local markets were exploding -- westward expansion had created an insatiable demand for Michigan white pine, and the lumber camps and saw mill towns which quickly sprang up were filled with people who needed to be fed. Copper and iron were discovered in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and a large influx of immigrants, mostly foreign, arrived to work in the mines. From 1869 to 1890, Michigan led the nation in lumber production, and the timber from Michigan's seemingly inexhaustible forests built and rebuilt Chicago, as well as many other American cities. In roughly the same years, from 1847 to 1900, Michigan led the nation in copper and iron production. The golden age of mining and lumbering left a lasting economic and social imprint on Michigan, creating fortunes, folklore, farms, railroads, harbors, and towns -- and ghost towns when the industries declined. Catastrophic forest fires followed logging, drastically altering the soil in large areas of the state. Cutover regions were sold as farm land, but the fertility of the soil often proved to be sub-marginal and many "farms" were later abandoned, reverting to the state for non-payment of taxes. Such losses served to retard the economic and social development of northern Michigan, in particular.
By the close of the nineteenth century, the era of specialization had arrived and farmers were cultivating crops especially suited to local conditions and market demands. While previously important products such as wheat and wool declined with the beef cattle and sheep industries, the growing urban areas created a profitable market for perishable products such as milk, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. Many farmers turned to the raising of dairy cattle, swine, and poultry. Swamplands were found to be ideally suited to the growing of mint, celery, and onions, and Michigan soon became a leader in production of these crops. The favorable climatic conditions along the lakeshore led to pre-eminence in the growing of apples, peaches, pears, plums, cherries, and berries. Other notable specialties included navy beans, potatoes, sugar beets, chicory, lettuce, cucumbers, and bedding plants.
The changing agricultural and rural life of the state has been richly documented in a wide range of publications. Invaluable reminiscences and historical articles are contained in the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections (1874-1929) and in the Michigan History Magazine (1917-present). A comprehensive account of Michigan agriculture and rural life is found in Lew Allen Chase’s Rural Michigan (1922). Other notable scholarly treatments are contained in George N. Fuller’s Michigan: A Centennial History of the State and Its People (1939) and in William James Beal’s History of the Michigan Agricultural College (1915). The Michigan Farmer and The Grange Visitor are important agricultural press titles.
Although increasing urbanization in the twentieth century brought a reduction in the farm population, agriculture remained a major contributor to Michigan’s economy and spurred the growth of related industries such as canneries, creameries, sugar refineries, and Michigan’s world-famous breakfast cereal industry.
The history of agriculture and rural life defines the history of Minnesota. A wealth of published resources documents this fact. Minnesota’s population was primarily rural and depended directly on agriculture until about 1920. The economic growth of early Minnesota was related closely to exploitation of its natural resources: soils, timber, and iron ore. Farming, lumbering, and mining, in turn, stimulated the growth of such ancillary activities as railroads, processing of agricultural products and natural resources, and services. Agriculture remains Minnesota's largest industry. The role of agriculture in the early state economy is explored in Early Economic Conditions and the Development of Agriculture in Minnesota (1915), by Edward V.D. Robinson.
Minnesota east of the Mississippi River was part of the original Northwest Territory, which came under the jurisdiction of the Ordinance of 1787. The portion of the state west of the Mississippi was part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Minnesota became a territory in 1849, with territorial boundaries reaching west to the Upper Missouri River, but most of its approximately 4,000 white settlers were located in the eastern part of the territory. Until the mid-1800s, two major Native American tribes occupied what is now Minnesota: the Ojibwas (Chippewa) in the north and east and the Sioux (Dakota) in the south and west. Though primarily hunter-gatherers, Native Americans did some farming in the Mississippi River Valley and have harvested wild rice in the northern regions for generations.
The first permanent U.S. settlement was at Fort Snelling, a military outpost established in 1819. When Minnesota became a state in 1858, its boundaries were cut back from the Missouri River to the Red River. Settlement was slow during the first half of the 19th century. Once the value of the forest lands and rich soils of Minnesota was realized, farmers and lumbermen from New England led the first large wave of permanent white settlers. In 1860, Minnesota was home to only 172,000 people, but the population increased rapidly, with most new arrivals moving to farms. The first major immigrant groups in the latter half of the 19th century were Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians. By 1870 the population had increased to 439,000, and by 1880 there were 92,386 farms in Minnesota. The most rapid period of settlement was during the 1880s when homesteaders rushed into western and southwestern Minnesota. During the same period, lumbering was at its peak and flour milling was becoming important.
Beginning in 1854 and until about 1870, agricultural experimentation, instruction, extension, and recreation were carried out by agricultural societies through state and local fairs. The first territorial fair was held in 1854 and that same year saw the organizational meeting of the Minnesota Territorial Agricultural Society, later the Minnesota State Agricultural Society. The Minnesota Horticultural Society was founded in 1866 and the State Farmers’ Club in 1868. Similar organizations quickly followed for poultry, stockbreeding, dairy, and butter and cheese. The effect of these organizations on rural life and the economy of the state is documented in publications such as the Annual Report of the Minnesota State Agricultural Society (1887-1923), History of the Minnesota Horticultural Society (1873), and The Minnesota Horticulturalist (1866 to the present).
By 1890, more than 1,300,000 people lived in Minnesota. Additional immigrants arrived from Finland, Poland, Ireland, France and French Canada, Holland, Belgium, and Iceland. Danes, Swiss, and Welsh settled in scattered pockets. These were the people who changed Minnesota from a raw frontier to a thriving agricultural state. The tremendous appeal of Minnesota to the foreign-born is demonstrated by the fact that the figures for any census year during this period show that two-thirds or more of the population were foreign-born or the children of foreign-born. Minnesota’s pioneer days and life on the homesteader’s farm are remembered in the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Ole Rölvaag.
Agriculture during the early years was at the subsistence level, but as farmers cleared land, they increased the acreage devoted to crops. In 1858, wheat was shipped commercially from the state for the first time. Extreme climate conditions in Minnesota fostered the development of hardy crop strains and other innovations. German immigrant Wandelin Grimm developed an alfalfa acclimatized to severe Minnesota winters and superior to other forage plants for the Northwest. Peter M. Gideon moved to Minnesota in 1853 and spent forty-five years developing fruit, including the Wealthy apple, that could withstand the cold weather. When the hard spring wheat from the Minnesota prairie could not compete with the winter wheat grown further south, the traditional flat grinding process was replaced with smooth millstones that ran more slowly, minimizing heat discoloration and bran specks. Other techniques to improve processes and profits followed, including scientific methods of testing wheat and flour and new procedures for bleaching. Works such as The Earth Brought Forth: A History of Minnesota Agriculture to 1885 (1949) and Grimm Alfalfa and Its Utilization in the Northwest (1911) describe the early years of agriculture.
Wheat was king in Minnesota from the 1880s to about 1920; it was shipped by rail and boat to markets all over the eastern U.S. and Europe. Minneapolis was known as the "Mill City," producing more flour than any other city in the world. The early mills -- General Mills and Pillsbury -- evolved into multinational conglomerates. Important publications include The Northwestern Miller (published in Minneapolis 1873-1973), The Decline of Northwestern Flour Milling, by Victor G. Pickett and Roland S. Vaile (1933), and The Medal of Gold: A Story of Industrial Achievement, by William C. Edgar (1925). The Minnesota wheat crop was 2 million bushels in 1860, and reached 95 million in 1890.
Profits in wheat raising produced a special kind of farmer in the prairie lands of western Minnesota. Access to the railroads, growth and improvement of the flour industry, and improved machinery made devoting thousands of acres to wheat both possible and profitable. "Bonanza farms" flourished in the Red River Valley, where as many as forty plows in a row would turn the soil and a dozen reapers work the same field. This era is detailed in such works as The Wheat Market and the Farmer in Minnesota (1926) by Henrietta M. Larson.
The wheat frontier moved west and farmers turned their attention to other crops; milk, butter, and cheese were products of Minnesota farms from the beginning. In the1880s, dairy products took a leading position in the state's agricultural economy. One factor accounting for the development of the dairy industry was the invention in 1878 of the cream separator. Other scientific advances, such as the discovery of the Babcock test for butterfat, improvements in refrigeration, and better methods of stock feeding, made dairy industries profitable. Within a few years, butter and cheese factories, both privately and cooperatively owned, appeared in most of the communities of southern Minnesota.
By 1900, under the leadership of Theophilus Haecker in dairying, Willet M. Mays in crop science, and other great teachers of diversification and improved farming, Minnesota agriculture swung toward a balanced crop program. Research conducted and published at the University Experiment Station included the development of crops resistant to cold and disease, such as Thatcher spring wheat; stiff-strawed varieties of oats and barleys that do well in heavy soil; and many hybrids of corn. In 1920, Evin Stackman began to chart the trails of wheat rusts from Minnesota to Mexico, documenting how the fungi are propagated and suggesting how they could be controlled. New techniques were promoted by county and extension agents. The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, created by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in 1919, published its Minnesota Farm Bureau News (1922-1946) to help spread the word.
Minnesota railroads were established in large part to develop or meet the needs of agriculture and lumbering. Before 1862, transport depended on the river, which was frozen out in the winter months and hampered by low water during some summers. By the end of the decade, more than 1,000 miles of railroad track had been built in the state, and by 1867 Minnesota wheat could be shipped by rail to primary markets such as Milwaukee and Chicago. Railroad companies became land offices, encouraging settlement by promoting the rich farmland and ease of transport. The Northern Pacific, for example, had agents in England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden to sell land and promote immigration. The 1862 Homestead Act was also a major impetus to settlement, and in 1867 Minnesota established a State Board of Immigration to persuade potential settlers. Both the Board and the railroads published pamphlets promoting Minnesota farmland and quality of life in English and many foreign languages.
Along with the growth of dairying came an increased emphasis on stock raising, particularly of cattle and hogs. Large packing plants were built in South St. Paul, Austin, and Albert Lea. Stock raising and dairying necessitated greater attention to the growth of forage crops and, as a result, corn soon became an important crop. Through the years the agricultural program of Minnesota farmers experienced a gradual shift. The changes followed the wheat frontier and even the farmers in the Red River Valley began to talk of crop diversification to conserve the soil and make it possible to continue to raise big crops on the acres that wheat was gradually wearing down. Diversification was encouraged by scientists at the College of Agriculture in the University of Minnesota, which by the late 1880s was exerting a powerful influence over the state's farmers. Extension work through the University established many services for farmers: county agents, institutes, and farm management demonstrations; and included leadership in 4-H clubs.
With the coming of the railroads, the Minnesota lumber industry developed rapidly. Major sawmills were built at Stillwater on the St. Croix River and at the Falls of St. Anthony on the Mississippi River in the 1860s. However, lumbering quickly depleted the pine forests and the natural regrowth of birch and aspen was not commercially viable. Concern about the decline, and its effect on railroads and the economy, led Leonard B. Hodges of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad to establish the Minnesota State Forestry Association in 1876, the first such organization in the United States. The association's founders -- leaders of banks, businesses, and railroads -- promoted agricultural settlement and the planting of trees to break up the endless horizon and to provide pioneers with fuel, fencing, and shelter.
By the 1890s, the Forestry Association had expanded its position to embrace the new "scientific forest management." Publications in need of preservation address the concerns of the day: that widespread deforestation affected the soil, water, and climate adversely; that public lands belonged to all people in perpetuity; and that forests should be "cropped" and managed with appropriate scientific and economic principles. For the next fifty years, the Forestry Association labored to impress upon Minnesotans the benefits of tree planting and forest conservation. Important resources for the history of forestry and lumbering include The Forest Tree Planters’ Manual (1879), The Pioneer Woodsman as He Is Related to Lumbering in the Northwest (1914), Minnesota Forester (1908-1911), and North Woods (1911-1923).
The Minnesota Pioneer Press played an important role as news organ, literary medium, forum for boosting Minnesota, and provider of leadership in politics and culture. The first agricultural periodicals published in Minnesota in the 1860s were the Minnesota Farmer and Gardener (1860-1862), the Farmer’s Union (1867-1873), and the Minnesota Monthly (1869-1870). Others followed, such as The Minnesota Farmer (1877-1896) and the Independent Farmer and Fireside Companion (1879-early 1900s). These periodicals are a treasure trove of information not only on agriculture, but on economic, social, and political history in Minnesota.
An essential element of Minnesota agricultural history is the cooperative movement. Carle C. Zimmerman and John D. Black describe farmers' attitudes toward cooperatives in The Marketing Attitude of Minnesota Farmers (1926). From the earliest days, farmers banded together to sell and ship their own grain. Between 1866 and 1869, farmers in Vasa Township formed the Scandinavian Transportation Company of Red Wing; the first cooperative elevator was formed in 1876 in Meeker County.
The history of rural cooperatives lies at the intersection of political history, economic history, and the history of immigration and ethnicity. Minnesota’s rural cooperatives performed essential functions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in an egalitarian, democratic manner that suited rural society. They helped to preserve ethnicity by enabling immigrant farmers to handle many of their economic transactions through their own member-owned, ethnic-language cooperative. They helped to complete the network of trading centers by significantly aiding the construction of many small crossroads communities. They served as important auxiliaries of agrarian protest movements. They brought needed services to rural communities when private investors did not regard it as profitable to do so. They helped parts of rural Minnesota diversify agriculture in response to declining wheat yields and prices.
The cooperative movement achieved its greatest penetration into American life in rural communities dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Between 1865 and 1917, local Minnesota cooperatives were organized by farmers without significant governmental assistance or help from any outside institution apart from sponsoring groups such as the Grange and the Farmer’s Alliance. After World War I, local cooperatives increasingly joined together to form sizeable regional cooperatives such as the Land O’ Lakes and Midland Cooperatives. Agricultural experts at the University of Minnesota, such as Theophilus Haecker, who promoted Danish cooperatives, were encouraged by state government to initiate the organization of cooperatives at the local level.
The first major cooperative sponsoring organization in Minnesota was the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, popularly known as the Grange. The Grange was successful in uniting farmers (primarily "Old Stock" farmers, who had come from New England) into one statewide quasi-political unit with many democratically run local units. For Minnesota, the Granger period began in 1868, when Oliver Hudson Kelly began forming the first Granges in Minnesota. Between 1868 and 1878, the Grange grew from an idea in the fertile mind of a failed farmer from Itasca, Minnesota, to a vigorous agrarian movement with 538 local units and thousands of members in Minnesota, plus thousands more around the nation.
The Grange had four features that made it especially appealing to many Americans: secrecy, an elaborate ritual, exclusiveness, and full participation by women. The Grange was intended to benefit the farmer by education, by brightening his social life, and by protecting members against discrimination by the big corporations. The Minnesota Grangers took up the plea of farmers for reasonable railroad rates; they fought for railroad regulation through state laws; and their interest resulted in the Minnesota legislature’s establishing, in 1871, the office of state railroad commissioner. Minnesota took the first step toward the regulation of its public utilities.
The second major force behind cooperatives in Minnesota was the Farmers Alliance, which was much more successful in recruiting immigrant farmers than the Grange. The Farmers Alliance was launched in Chicago in 1880. Minnesota’s eighty Alliance locals in 1881 grew to almost 1,000 by 1890. Initially apolitical, the Farmers Alliance moved into indirect political action by the mid-1890s and allied with the Knights of Labor.
Late 19th century Minnesota witnessed the development of a "culture of cooperation" in which earlier successes such as township fire insurance mutuals encouraged and facilitated later attempts such as cooperative creameries, cooperative stores, and rural telephone associations. Through organizations that grew out of a desire to improve their lives, farmers learned the lesson of cooperation and gained experience in public life. This tradition of citizen involvement, originating in the early farming communities, continues today, and can be seen in the many neighborhood and community organizations in the state, and in the active and progressive political environment.
A wealth of published resources documents the history of agriculture and rural life in Minnesota. University Regents' documents from 1868 on first mention a University Library in 1868 and an agricultural library in 1872. The growing agricultural collection was moved to the College of Agriculture on the St. Paul "farm campus" in 1895. The Magrath Library (formerly the St. Paul Campus Central Library) and the St. Paul Campus branch libraries now house over 650,000 volumes. While a major portion of agricultural literature is located at the University of Minnesota, important collections may also be found at the Minnesota Historical Society and other Minnesota universities and colleges. The University of Minnesota has been acquiring agricultural monographs and serials since the 1870s and became a repository for state publications at nearly the same time.
6.6. New Mexico
When Spaniards arrived in New Mexico in the 1540s they found the indigenous people already practicing irrigated agriculture and growing corn, beans, and squash. Archaeologists later discovered that native cultures had been growing crops with harvested water or irrigation from streams for hundreds of years. One of the great mysteries of southwestern anthropology involves the reason for the decline of these cultures.
Today, when one thinks of agriculture in New Mexico, chile and cattle come to mind. Alfalfa, cotton, pecans, and grain crops are also very important. Cows have been a way of life in New Mexico for a long time, and there has been a great expansion in production of milk products recently. In the past, many more horticulture crops were produced than are grown today. As settlers established towns around the Rio Grande Valley, the fertile soil, abundant sunshine, and good water made it possible to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Further, the romantic tradition of acequias permeates the literature of rural life. These small irrigation ditches were often the center of rural communities. Even small rivulets were channeled so that their water could be used for crops. The work of cleaning the ditches, leveling the fields, and apportioning the water was shared, and became a central focus of rural life in northern New Mexico.
Sheep dominated the livestock trade in the early years of New Mexican history, and by 1883 there were an estimated 5 million head in the territory. Although the state known for its cattle herds, the number of cattle did not surpass sheep until the 1950s. By the 1880s the construction of railroad lines in New Mexico made the shipping of cattle much easier. Cattle numbers peaked around 1920 at about 1,500,000 head. Approximately 90% of the land in the state today is used for livestock grazing. Much of this land is public land, such as that of the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. Because of the sparse rainfall, overgrazing and damage to sensitive riparian areas are crucial issues for livestock management.
In the early 1900s dam construction permitted irrigated agriculture on a grand scale and by 1930 more than 500,000 acres were irrigated. Irrigated land accounts for 1% of the state land area and dryland crops about 2%. The Rio Grande, Pecos, and San Juan are the primary waters from which surface irrigation is used. Many communities in the northern part of the state irrigate from smaller streams.
The agriculture college was begun in 1889. Today, New Mexico State University, the land-grant college in Las Cruces, enrolls about 15,000 students. The College of Agriculture and Home Economics contains Departments of Agricultural Economics; Agronomy and Horticulture; Animal and Range Science; Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science; Agriculture and Extension Education; Wildlife Science; and Family and Consumer Services. Recently, the college developed the Center for Sustainable Development of Arid Lands. The Chile Institute is located on the NMSU campus. Chile scientist Fabian Garcia published the first work on chile cultivation in 1908. While at NMSU in 1921 he released the first improved chile cultivar. To some, the image of the chile ristra hanging by the door is a sign of welcome to New Mexican homes.
The literature of agriculture and rural life in New Mexico ranges from stories reminiscing about the days gone by, ranching and rodeos, acequias, struggles between the poor (often Hispanic) and the land barons, and the changes wrought by railroads and dam building, to the effects of disasters such as the Dust Bowl. Materials range from books, government documents and extension publications, to newspapers and farming journals. These materials are an important part of the history of the state not only in agriculture but for the culture in general, for the two are intricately intertwined.
Many of the monographs reviewed in this project will deal with rural life in the west. My life on the frontier, by Miguel Antonio Otereo; Buckboard Days, by Sophie Poe; and No Life for a Lady, by Agnes Morley Cleaveland, are examples of this type of literature. Numerous theses and dissertations will also be considered. Periodicals dealing with New Mexico history and rural life include New Mexico Magazine, New Mexico Historical Review and El Palacio. Periodicals such as New Mexico Stockman as well as publications of the New Mexico Wool Growers Association will encompass the literature of the livestock industry.
6.7. NORTH CAROLINA
History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to
speak of the plowed fields whereby we thrive. . . .This is the way of human folly.
-- J. H. Fabre
Battlefields and plowed fields define southern culture. When we look back to the nineteenth-century South, we inevitably envision a plantation lifestyle brought to an abrupt halt by the American Civil War. Indeed, visions of the cotton plantation and the Civil War together characterized the entire region, both culturally and agriculturally, for generations of Americans.
Looking closer, though, we realize the agricultural South was not so monolithic. Parts of the Upper South looked to tobacco rather than cotton as their cash crop, while coastal regions in South Carolina and Georgia depended on rice and indigo. Yeoman farmers in the upland regions, growing crops for their families and the local market, did not share the same concerns as the planters closer to the coast who looked to the world market.
North Carolina occupies an interesting and unique place in southern agriculture. Although we typically think of the antebellum South as having a solid agricultural identity, the truth is far richer. The climate and soil led Virginia plantation owners to rely on tobacco. South Carolina had different soils and climate, leading wealthy planters there to plantations of rice and indigo. North Carolina's location between those two different growing zones prevented it from exploiting either group of crops well, and most agriculture seems to have been of a relatively small scale. Furthermore, the state did not move into the plantation economy on the same scale as other southern states: in 1860, the South reported some three hundred owners of more than three hundred slaves; only three of those owners lived in North Carolina.
Other factors affected the way North Carolinians developed, both culturally and agriculturally. Like many southern states, North Carolina was sparsely populated. Not only did it not have many large cities, it also had few small towns. In 1820, the state had only seven towns with more than one thousand people, and the total urban population was slightly more than sixteen thousand. Most farm families lived comparatively isolated lives. Limited access between regions fragmented many inland areas, restricting opportunities to sell in broader markets and thereby discouraging the use of more advanced farming methods. Frequently, tobacco planters relied on the more established markets in neighboring states to serve as outlets for this cash crop. Ironically, many of the state's roads led to Virginia and South Carolina rather than east-west, further hampering the state's ability to develop its agricultural economy.
The four major crops grown in North Carolina -- corn, wheat, cotton, and tobacco -- exhausted the soil. Agricultural traditions and an economy based on slave ownership led planters and many farmers to abandon the exhausted land rather than purchase the nutrients required to maintain their existing holdings. Between 1815 and 1850, approximately one-third of its population left North Carolina, most heading west to unfarmed lands. That steady migration, both within the state and to new states, drained resources and limited participation in civic activities such as developing roads and public education -- and public education was crucial to those interested in reforming agricultural techniques.
By the Civil War, the state's geographic distinctiveness led to an economy strikingly different from those of its neighbors. Soil and climate discouraged the development of cash crops and large plantations, limiting the need for roads and towns. Isolation led to subsistence farming, and abundant land encouraged farmers and planters to exhaust the soil and move on, further discouraging civic development and thoughtful agricultural practices. North Carolina developed a reputation for being a state of lazy and unambitious farmers.
Despite what seems a bleak picture of backwardness, some North Carolina farmers began working in the mid-nineteenth century to develop progressive agricultural techniques. The easy availability of land and a stubbornness about learning new techniques through "book farming" meant change came slowly. Nevertheless, agricultural reform, which began in England in the late eighteenth century, immediately found scattered adherents and a gradually broadening base of support across the state. Over the first half of the nineteenth century, North Carolinians wrote books and founded journals to publicize agricultural reform. George W. Jeffreys’ Essays on Agriculture (1819) brought the national concern for agricultural reform to a North Carolina audience. Ebenezer Emmons’ five-volume geological survey, published under separate titles between 1852 and 1860, surveyed the state's soil chemistry with the conscious goal of helping North Carolina's farmers determine the best crops for their land.
Most journals, such as The Farmer's Advocate and Miscellaneous Reporter (Jamestown, NC), the North Carolina Planter (Raleigh), or the Edgecombe Farm Journal (Tarboro, NC) were shortlived, some ceasing publication when the Civil War began. Nevertheless, these journals present a significant view of the changes in North Carolina's agriculture: not only did the publishers believe in the importance of agricultural reform, they believed that a market for such information existed, significant enough to support such a publication. Additionally, agricultural societies sprang up to support the reform movement, and the trend continued until the advent of the Civil War.
The end of the Civil War pushed North Carolina's agricultural economy in new directions. Textiles, tobacco, and furniture developed as important industries for the state; nearly all the major companies in these areas were founded by North Carolinians. These industries drew on North Carolina's agricultural resources to develop products sold nationally and internationally. Many factors contributed to the growth of these industries, but important among them was the availability of labor from farm families. Mills were located in small towns rather than cities, so farm families did not have to abandon farming in order for family members to work in the mills. Furthermore, mills paid regular wages all year around. For others, such as the farmers near High Point, mills became an alternative source of income when brightleaf tobacco from the eastern part of the state supplanted the demand for the heavier, darker tobacco from the western regions.
For those who remained in farming, however, the period following the Civil War was a hard one. A tariff imposed at the end of the war crippled many farmers, as did business combinations and discriminatory freight rates. Furthermore, the transition from a slave economy to a free economy, with the variety of rental and ownership arrangements also experienced elsewhere in the South, sometimes proved treacherous. Land was no longer abundant, and farmers and large landowners were forced to consider reconsider traditional agricultural practices.
In North Carolina, agricultural reform began to move in several directions. Leonidas LaFayette Polk, a relative of President Polk, perhaps exemplifies these directions best. Polk, noted for his work to help farmers navigate the ways of the new economy, was North Carolina's first commissioner of agriculture, serving for four years. Afterwards, he founded the Progressive Farmer, a magazine dedicated to teaching farmers better means of agriculture, which continues to be published today. His continuing interest in politics and the plight of farmers led him to work to unite the state's farmers to pressure the state legislature for reform. He joined the newly founded Farmers' Alliance when organizers visited the state, serving as the national vice president in 1887. Polk's interests took him to the Populist Party, presiding over their "industrial conference" at St. Louis in 1892. He was seen as the party's likely presidential candidate until his unexpected death that June, a month before the nominating convention.
The North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, now North Carolina State University, also grew from the goal of developing progressive agricultural practices. Leonidas Polk was a strong and vocal crusader for the establishment of the College, ensuring that it was founded as a land-grant college rather than as an industrial school. The College took its mission seriously, with faculty writing to fill in gaps. Daniel Harvey Hill, Jr., then vice president of the College, co-authored Agriculture for Beginners in 1903. The North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station, allied with both the College and the State Department of Agriculture, began publishing a wide variety of bulletins and technical reports to support improved agriculture. Thus through teaching at the College, publishing, and extension activities, the College sought to improve agriculture for all its citizens.
Throughout North Carolina, citizens answered the call to build a new South, one that exploited the region's natural resources but kept industry and its wages in the state. Although North Carolina has responded well to the challenge, becoming one of the most successfully industrialized states in the South, it has also continually sought ways to retain its agricultural heritage.
6. 8. NORTH DAKOTA
North Dakota and agriculture: agriculture and North Dakota -- words that are almost synonymous to many people, including its own residents. It is the land itself that has been a major factor in the development of the state and its culture. The farmers who turned the first sod were looking to replicate the farms of the eastern states or Europe, but the land forced them to adjust. And adjust they have, adopting farming methods uniquely suited to the northern Great Plains. It is through the publications documenting this fundamental change in dealing with the land on its own terms that the change can be understood and appreciated.
North Dakota is a state where trees are few and grass is short. On the extreme east is a narrow strip of deep rich black soils along the Red River of the North. These were the first to be cultivated in the modern age; in fact, except for this region, most of what is now North Dakota was untouched by the plow until the 1870s. The central portion of the state is dominated by the drift prairie, a region of gently rolling prairie and thousands of wetlands. To the west is the higher dryer grassland area of the Missouri Plateau. Major rivers are the Red River, flowing north to Canada, and the Missouri River, on the western side of the state and flowing south to St. Louis. Temperatures vary drastically from frigid winters to hot summers. Before European settlement, the state was mostly grassland prairie where huge herds of bison roamed, and elk, antelope, deer, and beavers abounded, as did prairie dogs, jack rabbits, and waterfowl.
North Dakota was home to the Chippewa, Sioux, Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa tribes. Although most of the tribes were nomadic hunters, the Mandan were agricultural, tilling the soil along the Missouri River and growing corn, squash, pumpkin, sunflower, and even tobacco. It was with this agrarian tribe that the Lewis and Clark party stayed during the winter of 1804/05.
Fur traders from Canada began to trade with the native tribes before 1750. Trading posts were established in the extreme northeast corner of the state by Alexander Henry, followed by Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Company and others. Henry probably became the first white agriculturist of the state: he was known as an avid gardener, and grew crops of potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbages and corn. Later in the 1800s, traders journeyed up the Missouri to trade with the Arikara and Mandan tribes. After the journey of Lewis and Clark, the fur trade grew rapidly, and numerous forts were built for its protection. These forts later served to protect the frontier farmers.
Like the first fur trappers, the first settlers in the area came from Canada. Scottish tenant farmers immigrated to Canada via Hudson’s Bay in the early 1800s. They found their way down the Red River to Henry’s fur trading post; there they could hunt buffalo and manage to survive. Knowledge of Henry’s successful vegetable crops led them to stay and plant, and encourage other Scottish settlers to come. They sent a delegation to Wisconsin in 1820 to purchase wheat seed, purchased and drove to the state a herd of cattle, and developed a thriving agricultural outpost on the frontier. Early histories of this era include Red River Settlement: Its Rise, Progress and Present State, written in 1856 by Alexander Ross. Further significant development and expansion of agriculture did not occur in the state until the coming of the railroads.
The fur trade relied on cumbersome and seasonal water transportation: ox carts traversed from St. Paul, Minnesota, to the Red River, connecting with steamboats plying the river north to Winnipeg. Steamboats also navigated the Missouri River, transporting furs from the western side of the state south to St. Louis. The steamboat era ended with the coming of the railroad. The Northern Pacific crossed the Red River into Dakota Territory at the site of present-day Fargo in 1871 and completed tracks across the state by 1881. In 1880, what became known as the Great Northern Rail Road crossed into North Dakota further north at Grand Forks, and soon railroad tracks extended north, connecting Fargo and Grand Forks to Winnipeg, Canada. River towns died, while railroad towns sprang up.
The railroads led the way to mass settlement of the state, and the evolution of agriculture depended on their coming. Railroad companies were granted massive tracts of land along the track rights of way by the government to finance the enterprise. The companies could sell these lands, or use them to exchange stock for land. It became vital for the railroads to attract land buyers, and they became active in enticing settlers to the region.
In the 1870s, a new milling process was developed by Minneapolis millers which enabled a superior flour to be made from spring wheat; prior to introduction of the new process, spring wheat, the variety suitable to the Dakotas, was thought to be inferior, and received low prices in the grain trade. Suddenly, spring wheat became highly valued and sought after. With a milling industry and grain market center in Minneapolis, with the railroads wanting business and needing settlers to buy their land, and with plenty of fertile land available either free or cheap, the stage was set for emergence of the area as a wheat mecca.
Railroads would exchange their stock for land; and some wealthy eastern stockholders recognized the opportunity and exchanged their stock for vast acreage. A new system of frontier agriculture developed, the bonanza farm. Unique in their time, bonanza farms were very large- scale operations, with some over 64,000 acres in size. The farms became a sensation, and served to demonstrate the opportunities offered in Dakota. Machinery was ideally suited to the flat land and deep, rock-free, fertile soil, and manufacturers used these farms to test new equipment: the gang plow, large combines, various drills, and large steam tractors, for example. Wheat became king, a dependence difficult to change even after the era of bonanza farms was over. Among the materials published about this time was The Checkered Years, the memoirs of Mary Dodge Woodward, who resided on a bonanza farm just west of Fargo.
The bonanza farm boom was short-lived, lasting only from 1879 to 1886. These were times of cheap land, a great climate, and a great grain market. The boom ended during a period of drought, low grain prices, and plagues of grasshoppers. Also, more people were immigrating into the state due to railroad and land company advertisements and the notoriety of the bonanza farms themselves. The new settlers were willing to buy quarter sections of land, and the bonanza owners sold rather than continue farming in a depressed economy.
The railroads facilitated the slaughter of the bison until all of the once great herds had been eliminated. The grassland, especially in the western part of the state, was suitable for cattle, and it was not long before cattle ranching took the place of the bison. The first trail herds came into the state in the 1870s; by the mid-1880s the cattle industry was booming. At first Texas style free-range year-round grazing was practiced. During the severe winter of 1886/87 most of the great ranches were ruined, most losing 80-90% of their herds. The industry survived, but a different style of ranching was developed; year-round grazing was changed to a system of summer-fall grazing, supplemented by feeding during winter and spring.
Until the depression of the 1930s, the railroads, the territorial government, land speculators, and land offices all used a variety of means of luring settlers to North Dakota. Publications, newspaper articles, and flyers painted glowing pictures of the area. The Dakotas were portrayed as a virtual farming utopia. Titles of these flamboyant publications reflect their tone: "Red River the Eden of the Northwest"; "Land of Fine Horses, Fine Cattle, Fine Sheep, Good Health, Good People, and the Best Bread in the World"; "Land of Golden Grain"; or "North Dakota; Land of Peace, Prosperity, and Plenty, where the Farmer makes the Laws." Resources in Dakota, published in 1887 by the Territorial government, was a veritable handbook for the Dakota settler. Later North Dakota Magazine was published by the state government to encourage immigration to the state: it proclaimed on one of its covers a "battle cry for 1909 -- 100,000 new settlers." Between 1878 and1890 the population increased from 16,000 to 191,000, and settlers continued to stream into the state until the 1930s. Probably half were emigrants, especially from Norway, Canada, Russia, Sweden, England and Ireland. There was also significant internal migration from nearby states as well as from the East Coast.
Settlers could acquire land cheaply by purchase from railroad companies or by homestead claim or purchase of public land according to the provisions of the Homestead Act and other public land settlement acts. They coped with the challenging climate by building sod houses (or log cabins along the rivers where wood was in supply), dugouts, and tar paper shacks. Homestead life was a frontier agriculture existence: subsistence farming, entailing hard work by men and women. Most newcomers needed to adjust their way of life and method of farming to survive the Dakota setting -- those who could not soon departed, selling out to new waves of newcomers. North Dakota became a rural state with small towns and farms, populated sparsely and with no large cities. As with the bonanza farms, settlers relied on wheat, continuing the precarious dependence on monoculture and the dangers inherent in it.
As time went on, the railroads began to charge rates the North Dakota farmers believed excessive. Also, the grain merchants in Minneapolis began to grade North Dakota wheat low -- low enough that the North Dakota farmers cried foul. Unrest erupted, and developed into political agitation; political agitation developed into political activity. Political action organizations were formed, first the Dakota Farmers Alliance, and later in the 1910s the powerful Non-Partisan League. League candidates controlled the state legislature by 1918. Bills were passed to reform grain grading and trading, develop a state highway commission, approve women’s suffrage, establish a North Dakota-owned mill, establish state hail insurance and workmen’s compensation, and guarantee bank deposits. Although anti-League interests were in control again by 1920, many of the League’s actions have legacies today: North Dakota still has a state-owned mill and a state-owned bank. Other farm organizations were formed in the 1920s and 1930s and the reports, newsletters and other documents published by these organizations and growers associations are a wealth of source material for North Dakota agricultural history.
The agricultural evolution of the state would have been completely different without the North Dakota Agricultural College (the state’s land-grant institution); the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, both established in Fargo in 1890; and the Extension Service, established in 1914. Early on, research centered on development of new seeds, new farming methods, plant disease, and weed control. Multiple routes of getting this information out to farmers were used: publications, farmers institutes, demonstration farms, and packaged libraries (including cultural materials such as amateur plays and discussion materials). The Bulletin published by the Experiment Station included some of the research most important to the state: from crop and livestock disease, to baking qualities of durum wheat, to equitable grading of wheat, to paint quality exposés. Important publications geared to the farmer included the North Dakota Farmer and Sanitary Home, begun in 1899 and continuing for eighteen years; the monthly The Extension, begun in 1908, with practical articles for farmers; and the journal called North Dakota Farmers’ Institute Annual, comprising the research and new farming methods presented in the farmers institutes.
These information and research services produced a slow shift in crop patterns in the early 1900s: the percentage of hard red spring wheat dropped, and oats, durum wheat, barley, flax, sugar beet, forage crops, and potatoes increased. The livestock business evolved and began to include more dairying. By 1920, due in large part to the College, Extension, and the Experiment Stations, agriculture was no longer a homogeneous wheat culture.
The severe drought of the 1930s, with the resulting grasshopper plague and economic depression, affected North Dakota farmers severely. The Non-Partisan League was reorganized, again gained strength, and won political power and the governorship, implementing a number of progressive actions.
The drought depleted the grazing land, causing ranchers to reduce the size of their herds drastically. Crops were decimated by drought, disease, and insect infestations. A wheat allotment plan organized by the state Extension Service, assistance provided by the Federal Agricultural Adjustment Act, and other government assistance programs helped to see North Dakota people and agriculture through. An estimated 45% of the people of the state were receiving some form of Federal grants, relief, or public works administration assistance. With the ending of the drought, and with the advent of World War II and the resulting extra market for meat and crops, the ranching and farming industries recovered and prospered until the end of the World War II.
Although the age-old problems of cold weather, blizzards, floods, drought and pestilence remain, the agriculture of the state is still evolving, and in many ways has come full circle to pre-settlement days. Current crops include corn and sunflower, and the livestock industry is re-discovering bison, with their supreme suitability to harsh plains conditions, as an alternative to cattle. Long distrustful of outside control, growers are forming new cooperatives and associations to process, market, and promote their own livestock and crops. Farm size is again increasing as it did during the bonanza farm era; and farms are being managed as large-scale businesses rather than family operations. As the state continues to adapt to changes and new opportunities, its historical literature serves as an important resource to document these changes in its agriculture and rural life.